May 30, 2010

The Wild Trees

by Richard Preston

Very interesting book about incredibly tall trees. The Wild Trees swings around people passionate about climbing trees- finding the tallest ones alive, measuring them, exploring them and documenting the life within their branches. Mostly coastal redwoods but also douglas firs and the mountain ash (in Australia). It starts out with a handful of college kids climbing redwoods in a national park just to see what it's like, and then unfolds in novelistic fashion telling the story of several canopy scientists: their original interests in trees, how they met up, taught each other skills and collaborated to find and study the very tallest of the tall, hidden in unexplored pockets of old growth forest. Along the way there's tons of information about the trees, their history, how they grow, etc. These men who climb were the first to discover that redwood canopies hold an ecosystem within their own branches, soil held in pockets that support plants and animal life. Not to mention the myriad different kinds of lichens, which pull nutrients out of the air to feed themselves and the trees. I could go on, but I'll let you read and discover it for yourself. Fascinating! I would have wished for a bit more description and less about the climber's personal lives, but that's a minor complaint. The trees are just amazing. They're the largest living organism on earth (aside from a huge underground fungus I just learned about, which covers several square miles!)

I read this book thanks to two recommendations: a review on Maggie Reads, and my mother told me about it after she read it during a trip to see the redwoods in California. I borrowed a copy from the public library.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 294 pages, 2007

More opinions at:
Bookwyrme's Lair
Nina's Reading Blog
I'll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!
Old Smiley
The Book Banter Blog

May 29, 2010

weekly finds

I've never participated in Friday Finds before, hosted at Should Be Reading. But I've always enjoyed reading other blogger's posts on it. And I noticed lately that the list I constantly compile of new books to read, becomes dangerously long before I add it to my TBR page here (which is a bit more organized). So I thought maybe if I start doing this weekly meme, it will help me stay organized and keep my list updated. (Hopefully it's okay that I'm starting out on a saturday!)

So here are my finds (in no particular order) from the past week (or two):

Seven Ravens by Lesley Choyce - I saw this one on The Indextrious Reader. I love the sound of the nature writing, the connection between creativity and nature, and the idea of following ravens. It sounds really intriguing to me.

Lost Worlds by Bruce M. Beehler - I'm starting to really enjoy books categorized as "popular science reading" and even though Pussreboots wasn't thrilled with this one, it sounds interesting enough I'm adding it to my list.

Not so Perfect by Nik Perring - Short stories have never really been my favorite to read, but Book Chase makes this collection sound so good, I want to give it a try.

Sylva by Jean Vercors - A little-known but intriguing book I've read is Lady into Fox by David Garnett. I was eagerly reading a new review of it at Page247, and then following links to see what other bloggers had said. At Stuck in a Book I found it compared to Silva, another book about a fox-turned-woman. Onto the list!

The Hive Detectives by Loree Burns - A Patchwork of Books told me about this book that details the work of honeybee keepers and scientists who are trying to figure out why bees are vanishing. Sounds like just my kind of book!

Clan Apis by Jay Hosler - And the first comment on that post about The Hive Detectives mentioned this graphic novel about bees. I'm just getting into graphic novels, so I'm really curious about this one.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton - I loved The Secret Garden, read it over and over as a kid. So I think I'd surely like this one as well, described at The Lost Entwife.

Coop by Michael Perry - I've read about this book recently on several blogs; Tales of a Capricious Reader and Raging Bibliomania were the ones that made me want to read it. Apparently it's not all about chicken-raising, but about life on a farm and family values. Sounds good!

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa - I haven't put any fantasy on my list in a while, nor YA, but Steph Su Reads makes this one sound really compelling.

and finally, The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery and The Red Centre by one Finlayson got added to my list because they were mentioned in Chasing Kangaroos

winner has given me number 2 out of four entries for the camel bookmarks. That's Lezlie, of Books 'n Border Collies. Yay, Lezlie! Some camels are coming your way!

May 28, 2010

Chasing Kangaroos

a Continent, a Scientist and a Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Creature
by Tim Flannery

I first saw this title on shelf at a bookstore, and was intrigued because I'd never read anything about kangaroos before. I thought at first the subtitle was a bit puzzling: how hard can it be to find a kangaroo? aren't they numerous enough to be considered pests in certain parts of Australia? Well, I found out two reasons: many kinds of mid-sized kangaroos are gone forever, or very close to extinction. Also, Flannery wasn't neccessarily looking for live kangaroos. He was searching for fossils, to answer questions about how kangaroos evolved and what caused mass extinctions of ice-age giants like the short-faced kangaroo.

So the book is partly a travel adventure crisscrossing Australia, from deserts and rugged landscapes to ancient rivers that once bordered rain forests and islands that hold pockets of surviving marsupials now extinct on the mainland. Encounters with quirky characters and elderly Aborigines who sometimes remember those vanished animals clearly. Its other main focus is Flannery's work as a palaeontologist, from a young graduate student volunteering to help clean fossils in museums to conducting his own research. And then there's the kangaroos. I had no idea how diverse they were before. Or the peculiarities of their reproductive strategies and feeding habits (all quite bizzare). One drawback was the inclusion of many Australian slang terms I had to look up. A short glossary, or a suggestion in the text, would have helped this unfamiliar reader. Overall the book is informative, interesting, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I'm game to read some more Flannery. Any suggestions on what I should try next?

Rating: 3/5 ........ 258 pages, 2004

More opinions at:
Book Lust Forever
Rick Librarian

May 27, 2010

Meme: Bedside

from Booking Through Thursday
What books do you have next to your bed right now? How about other places in the house? What are you reading?

It's easiest just to show you a picture. My bedside table is a bookshelf, so right now it's full of books I'm hoping to read for challenges this year (progress middling so far). The ones on the top are what remains from my last library haul, with my current read Chasing Kangaroos, on top. (The other three are The Wild Trees, The Natural History of Unicorns and The Life of the Skies).

Across the room is another full bookcase that holds the rest of my TBR books. I have a goal to get enough read or discarded (the ones I end up not liking) so that my TBR books just fit in the bedside shelves, but I don't know how realistic that is!

As for the rest of the house, The Arrival is still sitting on the couch, because my husband just finished reading it to my daughter, and she's still enjoying looking at the pictures now and again. And then, of course, there's the wall of shelves that holds my permanent collection, which I've shown in pictures before, although it's been rearranged since and looks a bit different now. It was fun to look at those older pictures of my bedside shelf and realize I have gone through a third, at least, of the books that used to sit there. They do shuffle in and out. So I guess that's some progress!

May 25, 2010

African Predators

by Gus Mills

Another book I picked up browsing at the library, just because it looked interesting. This "coffee-table book" is about 14 species of predators that live in Africa. They are divided into three families: canines, felines, and the hyenas, with a brief explanation of how they evolved. Following a description of each species, there are sections that compare how each hunts, their social lives, and how they interact or compete with each other. A small segment at the end describes conservation efforts. The writing is straightforward, with some interesting facts but pretty dry. Lots of color photos illustrate the different animals (I almost enjoyed the pictures more than the text). For the predators like lions, cheetahs and jackals I didn't learn much new. What really caught my attention were the less familiar species featured: the brown hyena, servals and caracals, the aardwolf (related to hyenas) and ethiopian wolf, the persecuted wild dog. I couldn't get enough of looking at images of those, having seen few in books of this kind before.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 160 pages, 2001

May 24, 2010

Wally's World

by Marsha Boulton

When I saw this book about "Wally the Wonder Dog" I thought it looked like a cute dog story. It's actually more of a sobering memoir. Marsha Boulton, a Canadian writer, tells about the dogs she owned early on, who all had unhappy endings- a freak accident in the forest, a dangerous proclivity to wander busy streets, incurable disease. When she and her partner (writer Stephen Williams) were finally ready to get a dog again, they decided they needed a very sturdy one. Wally it was, a stout bull terrier with tons of spunk and personality. Wally accompanied the couple through the ups and downs of the next decade, providing them with laughs and comfort in their times of trouble. I liked reading about Boulton's life on her farm, and the antics of Wally. Most of the book, though, ends up being about the tangled legal battle Williams got into after publishing two books about a murderess. At the end, not unforseen, Wally dies of medical problems in his old age, but I was unable to feel sad about it, being so tired of reading about vindictive police actions and wranglings with lawyers. I do really like the way Boulton writes, though, so I wanted to find more of her books; I'd like to read the ones about her farm. But this is the only one in my library's system, so I don't know when that will happen.

Borrowed from the public library; found while browsing the shelves.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 272 pages, 2006

More opinions at:
Gabe 'n' Arch

May 23, 2010

The Arrival

by Shaun Tan

I've been thinking more and more of trying out some graphic novels, having read very few (one being a fabulous edition of Frankenstein illustrated by Bernie Wrightson that I read in college, mostly for the pictures.) I've got a few in mind that other book bloggers have drawn my attention to: Tales from Outer Suburbia, Clan Apis, Blankets and Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species by Michael Keller. So I wondered if my library had a graphic novel section, and wandering the stacks found them: right next to classics, a few shelves labeled 'COMIC BOOKS'. I felt kind of self-conscious poking through them (oddly, as I don't feel that way looking through picture books, or the YA section) and most were manga and other styles that didn't really appeal to me. But then I saw The Arrival. I looked through the entire book right there in the library (causing an outburst of where were you? when I got home, from what was supposed to be a quick ten-minute trip to the pharmacy) then brought it back home to go through again at leisure.

This book deserves that kind of close perusal, even though it's a story told without words. In beautiful, detailed, imaginative and highly communicative illustrations, Shaun Tan tells the story of an immigrant. He leaves his family in his home country and crosses an ocean to seek a better life in a bright, bustling city. Everything there is strange. The technologies, food items, writing and customs are all different- and completely fantastical, so they are strange to the reader as well, who thus shares in his wonder and confusion. As our quiet protagonist navigates this new country, he makes a few friends, meets other immigrants who share their stories, eventually finds work and brings his wife and child to join him. It's a wondrous story. I loved all the little details in the drawings; puzzled along with the man about what the symbols might mean, or what that strange-looking fruit might taste like. I loved all the curious animals, too.

The book has convinced me. I'm going to read some graphic novels, starting with whatever else I can find by this author. I love his work.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 128 pages, 2006

More opinions at: Things Mean a Lot
anyone else?

May 21, 2010


The Small-Town Library Cat who Touched the World
by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter

I've seen this one on so many book blogs, I just had to pick it up last time I was at the library. It's the true story of a cat who lived in a small-town library in Iowa. Dewey was dumped in the library's drop box one cold night and rescued by the staff. He quickly showed he had the perfect personality for a library cat: calm, welcoming, graceful when walking on the shelves. Dewey worked his way into everyone's heart, becoming a favorite with many library patrons, seeking out laps to sit on, letting the children pet him, visiting with any group that used the library's meeting room. Beyond entering him in a local pet-photo contest, the library didn't seek any publicity for their cat. But people began talking about him, and before long he was being featured in newspapers, radio programs and magazines- not only in Iowa but across the country and eventually around the world. The story isn't just about this amazingly popular cat, though. It's also about the history of a small farming town, about how a library strives to serve its community, and about the author's personal trials, during which she often found comfort in Dewey's warm purrs. The cat himself didn't get through life easy: he also had continuing health problems, so it's all the more incredible he lived to the old age of 19. When he finally did pass away, the community (and Dewey fans around the world) showed just how widely he had been loved. It's very touching. Not the best writing, but a heartwarming story that anyone who loves cats or libraries is sure to appreciate.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 277 pages, 2008

some more opinions at:
Puss Reboots
You've GOTTA Read This!
The Narrative Casualty
Melody's Reading Corner
Foreign Circus Library
Bermudaonion's Weblog
Citizen Reader
The Zen Leaf

project's end and giveaway

I'm giving away two camel bookmarks! Let me know in the comments if you want to be entered into the drawing, which will conclude next weekend. Open worldwide.
On another note, I finally finished painting those cabinets (with a delay in wrapping it all up as the hinges we'd bought were wrong size, had to go back and exchange them all). It looks like a totally different kitchen! And as you can see in that last photo (of the group I showed half-painted before) we're now looking at tile for our kitchen (currently carpeted- ugh!). At least that's not a do-it-yourself-er, we're hiring someone to put it in.

May 20, 2010

The Golden Book of Wild Animal Pets

How to Find and Care for Animals of the Wood, Field, and Stream
by Roy Pinney

During several visits to a local thrift shop, I saw this old book sitting on the shelf. I was curious enough about it that I finally brought it home, even though it's tattered (the spine was falling off). This is a sort of children's manual for catching and keeping wild birds, insects and small mammals as pets. It tells how to find the animals in their own habitats, and methods used to catch them- pretty much anything from tadpoles and bats to rabbits and young hawks. Then describes how to make proper enclosures- I thought this was the coolest part. The book shows how to build a cage yourself, by wiring cake-cooling racks together; how to make an ant farm using two panes of glass, wood strips and tape, or how to set up a terrarium or make a jar a home for bugs (my daughter's own hobby!) It mentions several times the importance of giving proper care to any animals you keep- with particular instructions for the various species. Also explains clearly that some wild animals are never suitable to try and bring home- like bear cubs or poisonous snakes! - and emphasizes always checking to make sure it is legal in your state before trying to catch and keep most animals. I can't think a creature like a raccoon would make a good pet, and I never heard of anyone having a pet armadillo or prairie dog! but some of the animals described in the "exotics" section, like chinchillas, I've seen available in the pet store. There is also a part about putting up bird-feeders, or tempting deer close to the house with salt licks so you can observe them. The longest sections (a few pages each) describe snakes, frogs and turtles, and I particularly liked reading about flying squirrels. A very interesting little book! One I surely would have tried to put into practice as a kid.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 68 pages, 1959

May 18, 2010

A Turtle is Born

by William White

After reading those two books about sea turtles, I remembered I had another turtle book on my own shelf. This one came to me from a library sale somewhere. I didn't expect much of it, as it's a pretty old book, published before I was born (ye gads!) I thought the information would be brief, out-of-date and lacking in scope.

Well, it was actually pretty interesting. There was a lot of info packed in here, especially about what goes on inside of turtles. It shows how turtles breathe, and how their respiratory and digestive systems work. (This was partly disturbing, as the illustrations were actual photographs of turtles being dissected. Poor quality photos, too, so not only were they gross-looking, but also difficult to tell what you're looking at! I think a well-drawn diagram would have worked better). I was fascinated by the series of photos that show how a turtle embryo develops inside the egg (but again, disturbed by the fact- admitted in the text- that they peeled the shell off eggs in various stages of growth, to make the pictures). Little turtles are so cute! The book describes how turtles live in their different habitats, and the curious adaptations of some of the different species. Some, like the box turtle, can completely enclose themselves in a shell that has a hinge. On others, the shell is much smaller and the animal can't draw in its legs or head for protection. Some of the stranger-looking ones are the soft-shell turtle with a long tubular snout, and the matamata, a turtle with a thick neck, wide leering mouth and even longer nose! True, the book was lacking some facts that simply weren't known at the time- such as where sea turtles nested- but they did recognize that habitat destruction and egg-taking were threatening the populations of many species. The end of the book predicts that "many turtle species will no longer exist on earth by the year 2000". I tried to look this up, but although quite a few species went extinct around the 1800's, I couldn't find a list of any recent extinctions. In fact, quite a few have made a surprising comeback. So hopefully the world is getting a little better for turtles.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 96 pages, 1973

May 17, 2010

Winter's Tail

How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again
by Juliana, Isabella and Craig Hatkoff

I had this book in mind because I read about it at SMS Book Reviews and was really intrigued. I happened to find it while at the library, and it's a fairly short kid's non-fiction book, so I sat down and read it during our visit.

Winter's Tail is about a young dolphin who got caught in fishing gear off the coast of Florida. Her tail was so entangled that by the time help arrived, the blood flow was cut off. Rescuers saved her life, but she lost her tail. The little dolphin healed and began trying to swim again, but with a side-to-side motion which caused back problems and could have resulted in further injuries to her muscles and spine. So a special prosthetic tail was designed, just for her. She adapted quickly to her new tail, swimming like a dolphin again.

I loved this story. When I first told my husband about it (he's not enamored of animals like I am) he shook his head at the cost and research effort it must have taken to make that special prosthetic tail. Why don't they spend that kind of money and time helping people? he asked. Then I pointed out that the efforts to help Winter have affected people: in the first place, they had to create a special gel padding to protect the sensitive dolphin's skin from rubbing against the prosthetic. That same gel padding is now used for war veterans who have particularly painful amputation sites. Secondly, the little dolphin's story has been inspirational to children all over the world who struggle coping with amputations or other physical handicaps themselves. They flock to the aquarium to see her. One little girl mentioned in the book was resentful of having to wear a hearing aid until she saw this little dolphin swimming with its prosthetic. So now hubby agrees with me: this is a really cool story.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 40 pages, 2009

More opinions at:
Bibliophile by the Sea
Books for Kids Blog
5 Minutes for Books

May 16, 2010

Sea Turtles of the World

by Doug Perrine

I picked up this book because it caught my eye on the library shelf, sitting right next to Voyage of the Turtle. Where Voyage is a personal narrative, with a lot of information about people who work with sea turtles, their conservation and research efforts, Sea Turtles of the World is mostly just about the turtles. It describes each of the seven sea turtle species: their appearance, diet, habitat and unique traits. It details the turtles' biology and behaviors, and answered the questions I was left with at the end of Voyage. (Such as: do nesting turtles ever dig up the nests of other turtles who already visited the beach? Yes, especially during arribadas when hundreds of turtles congregate to nest at the same time.) I was intrigued to read about ancient turtles in different forms: one with spikes on its back, the giant Archelon, or the meiolaniids, which had horns on their heads. And of course, I loved looking at the pictures. The book was an interesting and informative read, a pleasure to turn through the pages of beautiful photos.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 144 pages, 2003

anyone else read it? I'll add your link here

May 15, 2010

Enrique's Journey

the Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother
by Sonia Nazario

This story follows one young boy from Honduras who made eight attempts to reach his mother in South Carolina, in a harrowing trip mostly on the top of freight trains, over 12,000 miles. He endured hunger and the risk of horrific injury, faced robbers, gangsters and corrupt police intent on thwarting his path or stealing what little he had. All in attempt to find his mother. She had left him in Honduras when he was only five years old, deciding it would be better for him to live with relatives and be well-provided for, than to stay together and continue in abject poverty, unable to afford schooling costs or regular meals. She didn't want to see her children grow up ignorant and digging through the local dump for food. But her son felt abandoned, his loneliness eroding over the years into anger and resentment. When he finally did make it to the US, the family reunion wasn't quite as he'd imagined, the rift during their years of separation had only widened, and troubles continued. Two parts of this book nearly made me cry- seeing how generous some people in poor regions were, giving food, water and clothing to those traveling on the trains, even when they had so little themselves. And reading about how Enrique's family continued to disintegrate even after his journey ended; it was very sad to see that despite the pain he felt from his mother leaving him behind, his girlfriend eventually saw no choice but to leave their own young daughter in Honduras when she came to the US as well. Written by a reporter who visited many of the places Enrique traveled through on his journey, and from interviews with other Latinos- both migrants and those who stayed at home, as well as caseworkers, priests, law enforcers and others involved in the issues, Enrique's Journey is a heartbreaking revelation of all the suffering and agonizing decisions faced by illegal immigrants, particularly those trying to get from poor Central American countries into the United States. It throws a lot of light on the desperation that drives people to attempt the trip, the many who don't make it, the privations felt even by those who do. The story did feel a bit dispassionate to me, written in a clipped, factual style, but the impact was great nonetheless.

I got my copy of this book from The Book Thing (free!) and read it for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge and the 2010 TBR Challenge.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 300 pages, 2006

More opinions at:
Helen's Book Blog
Lotus Reads
Latino Journalism

May 13, 2010

Meme: Influence

from Booking Through Thursday:
Are your book choices influenced by friends and family? Do their recommendations carry weight for you? Or do you choose your books solely by what you want to read?

I think everyone who mentions a book to me is an influence! My parents and sisters often tell me about interesting books they've been reading, and I jot them down to take a look at myself. I've got a book on my pile right now that a family member told me about. I read Jackdaws on my father's recommendation, The Plain Truth and The Professor and the Madman on my mother's. My neighbor often shows me new books he's bought, and loans them to me if I'm interested. It's because of him that I read The Road and Guns Germs and Steel, instead of letting them sit on my TBR for ages.

But all the same, I don't usually rush out and acquire a book to read immediately because of who told me about it. Like any other source (mostly book blogs nowadays) that adds to my book list, I jot it down and wait until the time is right for that kind of book. Pretty much at any given moment I'm choosing a book just because I feel like reading that one right now, drawing titles equally off my list, regardless of how they got there. So yes, I read quite a few books recommended to me by family and friends. They're probably more likely to be books I really enjoy, as they know my interests pretty well! But once a book title lands on that TBR list, it could gather dust for quite some time before I get around to reading it.

May 12, 2010

library stacks

Greedy eyes, during my most recent trip to the public library. I really just stopped in to drop off Voyage of the Turtle, as someone else was waiting for it (I couldn't renew, and it was a few days overdue). But of course daughter insisted on looking for books to bring home, and I started wandering the stacks. They've been rearranged a bit, since our library got remodeled a few weeks ago. I had to look up the call numbers of my favorite sections (pets and mammals, ha!) then I know which corner to go around to find them. At first I just grabbed Dewey, the book about the library cat, because I've heard so much about it. Then I kept seeing other books that looked good too, and brought this haul home:

Besides Dewey, there's another book on sea turtles, one on African predators, one about the origins of unicorn myths, and books about birdwatching, someone's amazing dog, kangaroos, and researchers who climb trees (my mom told me about this one). Now if I can only find time to read them all!

I'm pleased that my kid, although she's just barely beginning to read a few words, can already navigate the children's section by herself. She knows where to find her favorite books: curious george, max and ruby, mr. putter and tabby, anything by Mo Willems, etc. When she can't find a book she wants, she doesn't want my help, she wants to ask the children's librarian herself! Who knows her by name, as we go to the storytimes nearly every week. She also likes to help "beep the books" at the automated checkout station, and push the right buttons to get me a receipt. This all makes me very happy, in a silly kind of way. I remember knowing where my favorite stories were shelves, before I could read the titles, and being thrilled that "the library lady" knew my name, when I was little. I'm glad my daughter is having the same experiences, too.

May 11, 2010

Voyage of the Turtle

In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur
by Carl Safina

In this information-packed book, the author literally travels the globe to learn about and observe sea turtles. The focus is mostly on leatherback turtles, but also greens, ripley's and loggerheads. He goes along on boat trips- both those full of scientists trying to net turtles for study, and fishermen who catch them unintentionally, in order to see both sides of the turtle issues. He talks to activists and conservationists, flies in aerial surveys, visits crowded holiday beaches and far-away remote islands where turtles come ashore, sometimes protected by turtle patrols, at other locations endangered by poachers stealing eggs. Most of the studies were looking at human impact upon turtles: what was causing turtle numbers in some areas to drop alarmingly, and in others to rebound? Tracking devices reveal where the turtles go on their oceanic journeys: the results are astonishing, and make it very clear that how one country treats the turtles off their shores (intentionally or not) can have a strong impact upon numbers of turtles that show up in other parts of the world- because they go all over the place! I learned a lot about some amazing people who work to save sea turtles, and to study them. And a lot about the turtles themselves- did you know that sea turtles co-existed with dinosaurs? that they can regulate their body temperature in ways that both mammals and birds use, being in this sense a warm-blooded reptile? Sea turtles dive deeper and travel farther than even the whales. It was fascinating to learn about their habitat and all the aquatic life they share it with: swordfish, sharks, jellyfishes, shrimps and many others. It's all pretty incredible, but the amount of information here is staggering, and that's probably why I didn't quite enjoy this book as much as The Eye of the Albatross (by the same author). After a while all the facts just started to weigh on me.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5 ......... 383 pages, 2006

More opinions at:
Silent Griot

May 6, 2010


Time to pick a winner for the foxy bookmark set! I let do the work for me- out of 10 commentors, it picked number 7.

That's Cath of Read Warbler. You're a winner, Cath! Send me your address and I'll mail them out.

Everyone else, do come again! Another giveaway will be up sometime next week, for a book or bookmarks or a combination thereof, not sure yet... any favorite animals you'd like to see on a bookmark...? I'm open to suggestions!

May 5, 2010

book peeves

I saw this week's "Listful Mondays" at It's All About Books; it originated with Julie at A Small Accomplishment. I kept nodding my head at so many of their bookish pet peeves, decided I had to make a list of my own! I can't remember if I've done a meme like this before.... well, here are ten things that bug me about books:

1. Cover art that doesn't match the story, or has inaccurate details
2. Highlighted passages- underlining and marginalia just annoy me, but yellow highlighter is wrong!
3. Pages stuck together with gum- yuck! and you can never get it apart, either
4. Book plates, labels or stickers that cover part of a map or illustration on the endpapers
5. The first chapter (or more) just rehashing the last book in a series
6. Cigar odor- or anything else really stinky
7. Missing pages- especially at the end! Augh!
8. Loaning it to someone who breaks the spine
9. Trying to read a series in order but one book is always missing from the library
10. Books used for construction- okay, really, until they get left on the floor and stepped on

What are your book pet peeves?

May 3, 2010

life gets in the way

of reading sometimes. Right now I'm in the middle of this project to reface my kitchen cabinets- that means scrubbing, removing old hardware, priming, painting (three coats to cover that blue!) and putting on new hardware. So they will go from this ugly scuffed blue with old brass hinges and knobs to nice clean white with shiny nickle fittings. But it just feels like it's taking forever. I have to set aside blocks of time to paint in, and put everything away afterwards so cat/kids don't get into the stuff. Hence less reading (posting or commenting) time. I haven't even got through more than twenty pages of Safina, and his book is so fascinating, and beautifully written, too! -sigh- O well, soon enough we'll have decent-looking cupboards and a tidy kitchen again.

Here's one set halfway done.

May 1, 2010

Suburban Safari

A Year on the Lawn
by Hannah Holmes

In this engaging book, the author spent a year inspecting the doings of nature in her own backyard, and around her house. It starts off with observations on the behavior of birds, squirrels and bugs, then moves into analysis of her soil composition (different for every patch of lawn or shrubbery), location of groundwater, how trees deal with pests, the conflict between native and invasive species, what all the critters do to survive winter, etc. In minutiae (but not quite the degree of florid writing) it resembles the intricacies of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I was pretty intrigued by how Holmes overcame her squeamishness of creepy crawlies to put anything from insects to fungi spores under her microscope for a better look. She called in specialists to give her more information about her yard- from the number of mosquito species to the lie of geological bedrock (and its history) under her sod, to the energy-efficiency of her house. As the book progresses, she starts to wander farther afield than just her own yard, discussing deer in the neighborhood and the history of lawns, even traveling to other states to see how other people do things in their yards. I gathered from a few reviews I read before I picked up the book that some readers found this disappointing, they wished for the intimate observations to stick close to home. But since they spoiled that expectation for me, I didn't mind and found all the facts Holmes shared fascinating. Things like: male birds cannot make red (or orange or yellow) pigments for their feathers and must eat red foods to have brilliant plumage. Slugs can't crawl backwards. Earthworms, the gardener's friend! can also have negative effects. The book is packed with stuff I never dreamed off, all teeming around anyone's yard if they care to take a closer look. Sometimes, as in when she poked her nose in basement corners, or between the walls of her home, it felt a little too close to me (my mold aversion kicks in even when I'm just reading about it). But I liked this book so much I ordered my own copy through Paperback Swap before I was even halfway done. It even made me laugh a few times.

And here's all the titles I added to my TBR after combing through the reference lists at the back of hte book:

The Starling by C.J. Feare
The Forgotten Pollinators by Stephen Buchmann
Life on a Little-Known Planet by Howard Evans
World of the Opossum by F.F. Keefe
Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons
North American Tree Squirrels by Michael Steele
Winter World: the Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich
Dirt the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Logan
Gathering of Angels: Migrating Birds and their Ecology by Kenneth Able

I found Suburban Safari while browsing at the library; that cute squirrel on the cover (who looks like he's sticking out his tongue) grabbed my eye from a shelf. Counting it towards the What An Animal reading challenge.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 262 pages, 2005

More opinions at:
The Esoteric Viking
Cheap Sunglasses
Fear of the Blank Page
The Stay at Home Bookworm